There are many uncertainties surrounding college football right now. The 2020 season is still in jeopardy, and even if a season does occur it might do so with empty stadiums or a limited schedule. Still, it is never too early to take a look at the Michigan depth chart and the players slated to contribute whenever football does resume. Join us as we comb through the roster and answer key questions heading into this fall.
Karsen Barnhart, RS FR
247 Composite Ranking: 4 stars (OT 16, Overall 266)
2019 Stats: 2 games played (LT)
The 2019 season did not start as planned for the Michigan offensive line, with Andrew Stuber going down for the year before a game was even played and Jon Runyan sidelined for a couple weeks, forcing Ryan Hayes to be thrown into the fire. Hopefully that will not be the case in 2020, but there are some usable break-glass options if necessary.
Among them is young Karsen Barnhart, who has the looks of a future starter somewhere along the offensive line. His role this season will be that of backup, which very well could lead to some real minutes at some point in the fall. Though he does not have much in-game experience just yet, he has the potential to be another quality player for the Wolverines at the tackle position.
When and where will Barnhart break into the starting rotation up front?
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Barnhart is that his measurables and recruiting ranking are awfully close to those of Jalen Mayfield. The latter is the most polished lineman Michigan has to offer right now and should be on his way to the NFL following this season. While the two are quite a ways apart in terms of production at this point, there is a nice trajectory laid out for the redshirt freshman.
Barnhart played some tight end in high school, and while this role was more or less that of an additional tackle, it does emphasize his athletic ability and good mobility. He has not really been tested against tougher competition yet, but he showed enough promise in practice to at least see a little game action as a true freshman. With some typical lineman bulking up and strengthening, he should be able to work his way onto the field.
Like Mayfield, Barnhart may ultimately end up on the right side of the line given his height. There will more than likely be a vacancy there next season, and the competition will be open for Barnhart to grab the starting position. His only game action last season came at left tackle, and with the stability of Mayfield on the right, the left side might be his easiest path to the field for this year, but that does not lock him into this position going forward.
The hope is that Michigan does not need Barnhart this fall except in garbage time. He has a ton of potential and may be a great lineman in the future, but he is still pretty raw and not more qualified than someone like Hayes. It would be good for him to see a little more action, though, because he could be called upon as soon as 2021 to step into the starting lineup. That should be the goal, although much can change before then.